A Conversation with Bilal Ally on the Complexity of Indo-Caribbean Identity and Intersections with British Muslim Culture

Oct 20, 2020, 01:00 PM

Season 1, Episode 3.

How do you reconcile being part of a multi-hyphenated identity in a way that makes you feel like an accepted member of each sub-group?

Vinay sits down with Bilal Ally to discuss what it means to be a British Muslim and Indo-Guyanese person. They chat about how being a multi-hyphenate gives you the opportunity to explore a very diverse background but also leaves you with the feeling of never being enough anything. The conversation touches on how Indo-Caribbean people are often rejected by both South Asians and West Indians. To South Asians, they are low caste and diluted people who chose to leave India and practice an illegitimate form of Indian-ness. To West Indians, Islam and Hinduism are often not acceptable parts of Caribbean culture due to the dominance of Christianity. Indian-ness is treated as alien, Hinduism and Islam viewed as lesser. Vinay brings his own experiences of being Hindu and taking for granted the carved out Indo-Caribbean spaces within the mandir and temple system. Bilal remarks on still having not met another Guyanese person outside of his family, as well as never having his Indo-Guyanese background recognized at the mosque. They both touch on the sliding scale of identity and the ever evolving journey to learning more about the history of indentureship. Bilal opens up about what lies ahead for him in his path to uncovering more about his roots, as well as how he incorporates that quest in the lyrics of his music. Both agree on how the current times have led to renewed interest in examining race and ethnicity. Thankfully, it is time for Indo-Caribbean people and other descendants of indenture to have much needed conversations about who they are, where they come from, and what direction they are moving in. Platforms like The Cutlass will continue to foster those new connections and dialogues.

Bilal Ally is British, Muslim, Indian, and Guyanese. He is also an up-and-coming rapper and independent artist, with his work available on both Spotify and Apple Music. He goes by the moniker Wes Cindi, a play on his West Indian origins, and frequently collaborates with other young musicians exploring similar topics. You can find him, along with some of his visual artwork, @bilalally_ on Instagram. Please check out his appearance on his cousin Jana Ally's podcast "Sae" along with Chandani Persaud.

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